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The word Phadnavis arises from two Persian words, Fad and navis. It is literally translated from Persian to English as 'Maker of the Lists'. Phadnavis was an important administrative position in medieval Maharashtrian administrative set up. The powers of Phadnavis in Maratha setup of administration were that of Finance Minister.

Phadnavis, along with Peshwa, Amatya, Dabeer, Senapati, Chitnis was an important post in Shivaji's Ashta-pradhan Mandal.

The famous person who was known by this post was Nana Phadnavis, who was a finance minister and de facto ruler of Maratha empire in the reign of Sawai Madhavrao Peshwa.

Phadnavis/Phadanvis is a common surname found in Maharashtrian Brahmins, typically in Deshastha Brahmin community. This surname is also found among the Chandraseniya Kayastha Prabhu (CKP) community of Maharashtra, Dewas & Indore. The surname is also found among the Kunbi Patils of Maharashtra.It is alternatively written as Phadnis, Fadnis, Fadnavis and few other phonetic variants.